Saturday, August 21, 2010

An Indian Christian sigil?

This Christian sigil, found in India, has been puzzling an online friend of mine.  Being able to read Tamil could help, especially considering my friend's accidental discovery that the sigil has a back side with what appear to be detailed explanations of its different geometrical regions.  Any ideas, fellow bloggers?  Here are some discussion points:
  1. I'm reassured that the eight-sided wheels are not the usual Buddhist "Wheels of the Law."
  2. Jesus is in the middle of the figure -- solar, and likely not constrained by the surrounding figure -- surrounded by protective saints.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Opere ex operato": mixing articles

Jason Miller of Strategic Sorcery has been writing a series of posts on "opere ex operato" -- the magical principle that ritual properly performed "works" regardless of the belief or goodness of the operator.  The phrase originates in Western Christianity, where it has been controversial for ages (read up on Donatism for an ancient example).  This post on the Miraculous Medal devotion, and Mehet's comments on the following post (mildly NSFW tantric image there), stirred me to think about mixing magic from different traditions.

Mehet asked whether replacing the Blessed Virgin Mary with Holy Sophia and various deities in the Miraculous Medal devotion really blunts its efficaciousness, when similar mixing is a familiar part of magical practice.  For example, the Psalms are used in root work (as Mehet points out) and Egyptian deities are mixed into the already syncretic Qabalistic tradition in Western Hermetic rituals.

i responded by saying that "things that are almost but not quite the same, tend to interfere with one another."  The example i had in mind was from linguistics.  Linguists suspect (see e.g., this Wikipedia article on the history of Germanic languages) that English lost its case-declined definite articles (all of which mean "the" in English, but in other Germanic languages change forms depending on the role of the following noun in the sentence) due to regular interaction between speakers of two similar Germanic languages: Danish and Anglo-Saxon.  Danes colonized and took over parts of modern-day England, and along with political dominance must have come trade and social interaction.  The two languages were sufficiently similar to facilitate linguistic crossing (at least to form a Pidgin). However, their case systems differed enough that people must have confused themselves to frustration. Eventually they just threw away the whole thing, and we say "the" instead of one of the many forms described here.

In this case, the Blessed Virgin and Holy Sophia each have their own imagery. They cross quite a bit, but if you're using a Miraculous Medal, you're drawing from a particularly Marian strain. (When Jason Miller speaks of "a coven of Catholic witches," i know exactly what he means.  These folks are devoted thaumaturgists and very specific in their devotional imagery.)  Trying to mix that up with Holy Sophia seems like it would result in confusion. (Also, i don't generally experience the two in a syncretic way, but perhaps that's a sign of my limitations!)

i understand the Psalms differently. People of so many different belief systems have used the Psalms for so long, that they aren't specifically Jewish anymore, or even Christian or Muslim or ... You could say that the Psalms are to linguistics like "Indo-European" is to English.  They also have a different character than a devotion like that of the Miraculous Medal.  The Paslms are prayers, evocations, meditations, etc. rather than devotions focused on a specific figure, like the Blessed Virgin. 

However, after making this comment, i wondered whether the mixing of Egyptian and Christian deities in, say, the Golden Dawn tradition is rather like using the Miraculous Medal as a Holy Sophia devotion.  GD folks (i'm reading Dion Fortune's "The Mystical Qabalah" at the moment) might assert that they link Egyptian, Christian, etc. deities together using a common Qabalistic (for the Outer Order at least) framework.  The framework, they might say, ensures that the strains only get mixed in the intended ways.  In contrast, using a Miraculous Medal for the "wrong goddess" throws away an existing framework of devotion that followers of the Blessed Virgin have been using for centuries.

i think there's something to the GD argument, but i don't have enough experience yet "mixing the articles" to know whether doing so really has power, or whether it merely dilutes the strains and turns magic into a mere "good feeling of oneness with a generally good principle."